What to Expect
Who you might see during your first visit
On your first visit. you will be seen by one of the head and neck surgeons and a nurse. During this visit, they may give you a chest x-ray, CT scan and/or MRI scan, and blood tests.
Depending on your situation, there are other people you might need to see during your first visit including a radiation oncologist; a medical oncologist; a dentist; a prosthetist; a speech and swallowing therapist; and/or a social worker.
Having a biopsy
A biopsy may be done during your visit. Once taken, preliminary results of needle biopsies are available in about 20 minutes.
Sometimes a biopsy cannot be done during your fist visit and must be done during surgery or during a panendoscopy. During a panendoscopy, doctors look for the main tumor and check for others so that they can figure out a treatment plan that will work for you.
Biopsy results taken during surgery or during a panendoscopy will take 3 – 4 days to receive.
When you have surgery scheduled or when you have a panendoscopy scheduled, you will have another appointment before the surgery or panendoscopy to see the doctor again and complete all needed paperwork.
Possible Treatment Plans
The main treatment plans are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Sometimes only one treatment will be used. Sometimes a combination of the treatments will be used. The treatment plan used depends on the type of cancer you have and its strength.
If you need chemotherapy, your nurse will explain what to expect and how to manage care at home.
If you need radiation treatment, your nurse will explain the treatment, procedures and side effects. You may also be scheduled for simulation. A simulation uses x-ray images to plan radiation treatment so that the target treatment area is precisely located and marked. After simulation, you will receive the date and time when radiation treatment will begin.
You may be asked if you would like to be in a clinical research trial.
Patients will be followed regularly by the head and neck surgeon. They will be seen about every 2 months the first year after treatment, every 3 months the second year, every 4 months the third year, every 6 months the fourth year, and yearly thereafter. Every year patients will have a chest x-ray. If they received radiation treatments to the neck, they will have a blood test to check their thyroid level. After radiation to the neck, many patients become hypothyroid; however, this condition is easily correctable with medication.
An informational packet will be given to patients during their first visit. This packet will contain information about the patient's type of cancer, treatment options, support and education programs, and nutrition.